Employment by The Kaiser Chiefs: Ten Years On

Ten years may not seem like a long time but when you actually look back on things that did happen a decade ago, you can’t help but feel slightly nostalgic even if it doesn’t feel as long as you envisioned. Although this isn’t a particularly new idea, it was tricky to find good highlights from 2005. Once we had found some great ideas, we realised we had too many and so had to whittle them down. From movies, music games and everything else, these articles will tell you why we think they deserve mentioning and how well they have stood the test of time.  As a start and what better way to begin than to go over one of the most crucial first albums of the 21st Century. The Kaiser Chiefs released Employment almost ten years ago and I have been a huge fan for the majority of those years.

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From the beginning synth line and the chugging guitars of ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’ it’s easy to see that Employment is going to be a quick paced, high energy album. It sets out the tone perfectly for the Kaiser Chiefs; simple lyrics and tone to sing along to – the under-pins of every great indie rock song. The bittersweet lyrics give off the impression that this isn’t going to be your run of the mill, straight laced pop-rock affair. Its iconic middle 8 adds a bit of depth until the band screams up to the final chorus. It’s a ruthless in your face track but a cracking opener. It also sets the tone for the entire band.

‘I Predict a Riot,’ along with ‘Oh My God,’ are arguably the most famous songs that put the Kaiser Chiefs well and truly into the limelight back in 2004, when the singles where released. A great deal of energy is produced from Ricky Wilson (vocals) and Co, again topped with more screaming before the outro choruses. Again, nothing complex, just simple, good clean fun wrapped up in some solid guitar and drum work from Andrew White and Nick Hodgson respectively. “Oh My God” being belted out brings the chorus out shining as a bruiser of a modern-day rock song. There’s ferocity behind Wilson’s delivery but it remains strong and it is dominant. Simple repeated choruses just work in Kaiser’s favour; a song where you can see and hear that it was created for huge crowds at festivals and gigs. It will always be a firm favourite amongst the more casual radio listeners and hard-core fans.  A winding guitar solo nicely brings the song to its all-out final chorus The Kaiser Chiefs know how to make good indie anthem and this is always going to be the case. But of course, you do need a bit of variation from time to time. Employment employs alternatives!

‘Modern Way’ calms the tone that favours the lulling reverb and the dark, clean tones of Andrew Whites guitar open the tune which complements the drawn out vocal harmonies. The countermelodies on Nick Baines’ keyboard playing add to the complexity behind the simplicity. Only until the chorus does it start to crank up. It gives the third track a nice mellow feeling. ‘You Could Have It All’ keeps to that gloomier tone and as a cleaner piano based ballad with a solid, cha-cha, almost latin- type drumbeat that utilizes maracas and wooden percussion it adds more differences too. Smooth vocals and a simple overdriven guitar solo only add to the colour of this slower song that has a bit of sway and lot of swagger. ‘What Did I Ever Give You’ has is an edgier, sombre record with its spooky pseudo-organ synth that starts it off. The hissing vibraslap begins each new verse and the guitars follow a staccato pattern that keeps the rhythm the smooth bass lines miss. The lyrics set the mood accordingly ‘all I gave you was pain, and a look of disdain’ encapsulates this. It’s not a happy song but it brings more to an album that is so pumped.

The aptly named fourth track, ‘Na Na Na Na Na,’ brings back the quick pace and the high energy. Jumping rhythms on the Simon Rix’s bass add to the power and youthful bounce; a jaunty piano line highlights and compliments this. We also get a more intricate guitar solo, something we haven’t really heard of from White until now. An arpeggiated piano intro starts off ‘Born to Be a Dancer’ and a very simple airy guitar line that harmonises the vocals evoke a similar feeling to an early Franz Ferdinand song but a brooding middle section with its not-so-cheesy cheesy key change and instrumental middle 8 sets it away from the Scottish rockers. “Once you ask me what I’m thinking, I lay back and think of England” adds a cheeky dimension to this cheeky song.

A buzzy 8-bit inspired synthesizer takes us into ‘Saturday Night.’ Two chords are the bases of the main verses and its strength and the chorus’ vocals add more melodic differences where the tune actually lays. I do love the how it keeps its charm even though there’s not a lot of musicality behind it. All the movement is in the vocal line and its backup harmonies of ‘oooh wha wha wha oooh’ and subtle waves of brass and a distorted bassline. In ‘Time Honoured Tradition’ again White’s guitar follows Wilson’s vocal line. No traditional chorus, no real words but it works. As very skeletal song, I feel it misses some of the middle padding that filled out previous songs and that it appears to be quite overlooked compared to some of the other tracks. The meticulousness of the lyrics in the verses which is where the majority rhythm comes from is where it shines through. ‘Caroline, Yes’ is actually one of my favourite songs from the entire album, if not my favourite; it has this overall darkness in its apparent dirt. Ricky Wilson has some real emotion in his lyrics and his singing and the twiddly guitar riffs that top each chorus counter the winding of the vocals and backing vocals. A simple vibrato guitar solo matches Wilson perfectly. Basic vocal lines keep to the anthemic feel to this song that bursts into a powerful chorus. ‘Team Mate’ then starts the finisher of the album with none of the power that was present in the previous songs. Very breathy makes it feel like an intimate acoustic song but adds the richness from the bass, drums, wooden percussion and organ. Only halfway through does it build up with a mystical reversed-effect guitar, something similar to a late Beatles song that induces the resonance of a sitar. A very Britpop style song, reminiscent of Blur it seems.

The Kaiser Chiefs helped pioneer the sound of the mid-2000’s with the other great indie bands of that generation. The soul of 2005 is firmly wedged in there. That doesn’t necessarily means it sounds dated, far from it, but it makes it feel like that part of music has run its course. With music being cheaply made by lacklustre people (I use the term ‘musician’ or ‘artist’ sparingly when mentioning modern-day bubblegum “hits”) Employment evokes the greatness of the high-octane festival type rock bands that used to get so many airplays on mainstream radio. Guitar based bands are still on the backburner I feel. Still relevant to those who care but it may be a while until they become as popular to the masses as they once were. The Kaiser Chiefs may have matured since the release of Employment and they still carry on making great songs but their greatness is owed so much to this debut. I’m happy to keep living in that simpler era, longing for it to return. Nonetheless, this is still a good, solid album that doesn’t do anything spectacular because it doesn’t need to; it keeps things simple and elegant yet powerful that only adds to the rawness.


Words by: Jimmi